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Horse & Rider Weekly #11: Dealing with nervousness when riding

Nervous horse, nervous rider. Well, that is the case 8 times out of 10. And the reasons are either 1) the nervous horse made the rider nervous, and 2) the nervous rider made the horse nervous. And we’ll be going over both of the types of nervousness today.

So we’ll start with nervous horses. The key to be able to control a nervous horse without it freaking the living daylights out of you, is to determine what is making it nervous in the first place. If it is you who the horse is nervous of, the horse will typically shy away when he sees you, will get uncomfortable if you’re hanging around by his stable, will give you a hard time in tacking him up, the list goes on. If that is indeed the case, then you first need to acquaint your horse with you. You’ll need to spend a lot of time with your horse, do small but rewarding riding sessions, give him treats, and maybe for a few days in a row if it’s possible give the horse his meals yourself. When riding, avoid shouting him, or punishing him if he does something unwanted, and reward him often. Eventually the horse will get to know you and will start bonding with you. You must have heard these terms in the horse world often: #thebond or “It’s all about the bond” or stuff that says bond a lot. 

Bonding with your horse is much, MUCH easier said then done. It takes time, dedication, patience, and even then it needs regular tuning and servicing to keep it in shape. So in a nutshell, if your horse is nervous of you, then start building a stronger bond with your horse.

But if your horse is nervous of other things (such as a crop for example; one horse that I rode called Bibi, the minute he saw a riding crop he’d freak out), it’s more or less the same procedure, acquaint your horse with that specific thing. However, in the scenario of a old horse afraid of, say a riding crop, then sometimes the best option is to just live around it. An old horse is much, MUCH harder to familiarize with something compared to a young horse. If you have a horse who has spent his entire young life being beaten by a crop, he’ll be afraid of it in his old life, and the past would take the better of him. And because he’s old, his capability of “learning new things” had decreased. So depending on the horse and situation, you have to make the decision, whether to work on it, or just live around it.

As far as nervous riders go, as I said above, half of the time you’re nervous because your horse is nervous. But sometimes you can be nervous for some other reason. Me for example, I’m still nervous, despite riding for 1 and a half year continually, because I have a really bad past with horses. I don’t wanna go over history again, but the past still holds me. Although I am far less nervous then when I started in 2014 (more details here) I still am nervous. So I’m also on a journey to being confident, I have some tips that seem to be working for me.

  1. Leave your past behind you. Easier said than done, if you have a bad past with horses, it will keep on bugging you. Shrug it off and focus on what’s happening now.
  2. Don’t think about what others have to say about your riding. Let them be. Again, in a society like ours, where everybody is concerned about “what will others think about me” and where everybody is name-calling everyone and passing remarks about everyone, it’s much easier said than done. But it is important in being confident and less nervous.
  3. Just relax. Breathe in, breathe out. Spend time with your horse. Make you and your horse familiar with each other.
  4. Ask your instructor and/or any other qualified personnel for tips.

Thanks for reading you guys! If you have any other tips that seem to work for you please leave a comment below 🙂

With that, see you guys next post 🙂

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